William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Dec 8, 2006 - History - 496 pages
IWilliam Lowndes Yancey (1814-63) was one of the leading secessionists of the Old South. In this first comprehensive biography, Eric H. Walther examines the personality and political life of the uncompromising fire-eater.

Born in Georgia but raised in the North by a fiercely abolitionist stepfather and an emotionally unstable mother, Yancey grew up believing that abolitionists were cruel, meddling, and hypocritical. His personal journey led him through a series of mentors who transformed his political views, and upon moving to frontier Alabama in his twenties, Yancey's penchant for rhetorical and physical violence was soon channeled into a crusade to protect slaveholders' rights.

Yancey defied Northern Democrats at their national nominating convention in 1860, rending the party and setting the stage for secession after the election of Abraham Lincoln. Selected to introduce Jefferson Davis in Montgomery as the president-elect of the Confederacy, Yancey also served the Confederacy as a diplomat and a senator before his death in 1863, just short of his forty-ninth birthday.

More than a portrait of an influential political figure before and during the Civil War, this study also presents a nuanced look at the roots of Southern honor, violence, and understandings of manhood as they developed in the nineteenth century.

From inside the book


Jordans Stormy Banks
Rebellion and Union
Flush Times and Bad Times in Alabama and South Carolina
Party and Honor
The Alabama Platform
Walker and Walker the League and the Letter
The Conventions of 1860
The Voice of the South
The Men and the Hours
In King Arthurs Court
Journeys Home
The Main Pillar of the Confederacy

Creating the Leaven of Disunion
Public Man Private Life
A section of illustrations
Yancey and the House Divided

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Page 222 - No national party can save us — no sectional party can ever do it ; but if we could do as our fathers did, organize committees of safety all over the cotton States — and it is only in them that we can hope for an effective movement — we shall fire the Southern heart, instruct the Southern mind, give courage to each other, and at the proper moment, by one organized, concerted action, we can precipitate the cotton States into a revolution.
Page 396 - I would preserve to free white labor a fair country, a rich inheritance, where the sons of toil, of my own race and own color, can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free labor.
Page 222 - But if we could do as our fathers did, organize committees of safety all over the cotton States, (and it is only in them that we can hope for any effective movement) we shall fire the southern heart — instruct the southern mind — give courage to each other, and at the proper moment, by one organized concerted action, we can precipitate the cotton States into a revolution.
Page 153 - To sell cotton in order to buy negroes — to make more cotton to buy more negroes, " ad infinitum," is the aim and direct tendency of all the operations of the thorough-going cotton planter ; his whole soul is wrapped up in the pursuit. It is, apparently, the principle by which he " lives, moves, and has his being.
Page 213 - In vain was that glorious life lived if he lived but to impress upon mankind no higher thought. Embodied in yonder monumental brass, embalmed in his storied memory, is that other immortal new-born American principle — that all governments were made for the benefit of the governed; that all authority rightfully springs from the people ; and that it is not only their right but their duty to subvert a government which becomes destructive of the end for which it was framed, and to form a new government...
Page 189 - I have read your speech twice over carefully ; it is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr Butler, who is a relative of mine.
Page 118 - We would, in a word, change conditions with them — a degradation greater than has ever yet fallen to the lot of a free and enlightened people...
Page 316 - A merica was not that of rebels, subject to be dealt with as traitors and pirates by their enemy, but the dignified and solemn conduct of a belligerent Power, struggling, with wisdom and energy, to assume a place among the great States of the civilized world, upon a broad and just principle which commended itself to that world's respect. The Undersigned have witnessed with pleasure that the views which, in their first interview, they pressed upon your Lordship as to the undoubted right of the Confederate...
Page 305 - Though with the North we sympathize, It must not be forgotten That with the South we've stronger ties, Which are composed of cotton. Whereof our imports mount unto A sum of many figures; And where would be our calico Without the toil of niggers?

About the author (2006)

Eric H. Walther is associate professor of history at the University of Houston. He is author of The Fire-Eaters and The Shattering of the Union: America in the 1850s.

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